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Made in Havasu: Boats, plastic tubs and ‘AirChairs’ made in our back yard

September 3, 2018

Lake Havasu City’s business landscape has changed in 50 years, but the heart of the city has always been in its manufacturing industry.

Before founding Lake Havasu City, Robert P. McCulloch earned his fortune in manufacturing engines, chainsaws and other items. After Havasu was founded, he opened motor factories in Havasu; and boat manufacturers followed. The factories brought industry to Havasu, and the industry brought jobs.

According to Lake Havasu Area Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Krueger, the list of items made in Havasu has only grown.

“We have marine manufacturers, boat makers, special parts, after-market parts for motorcycles and craft breweries,” Krueger said in a March interview. “The manufacturing industry is pervasive in Havasu.”

From plastics and fishing line, watercraft, beverages, auto parts, firearms and anchors, Havasu-made projects are distributed all over the world. About 40 percent of the city’s employees are blue-collar workers, according to the Lake Havasu City Partnership for Economic Development.

One of Havasu’s largest employers and manufacturers is Massachussetts-based Sterilite company, which has been a Chamber of Commerce member since 1988. The company employs 375 residents at its Havasu facility, alone.

Nordic Boats, which produces watercraft for boaters throughout the country, employs as many as 45 Lake Havasu City residents, according to general manager Thane Tiemer.

“We make about 40 boats per year,” Tiemer said. “A lot of times we’ll get inquiries, and people will hear that these boats were made in Havasu. They’ve usually heard of this place.”

Nordic also produces watercraft from a building that formerly housed McCulloch’s engine factory, which offers the company about 60,000 square feet of space to keep the production lines moving.

“Our proximity to the lake is key for testing new boats with our customers,” Tiemer said. There’s nothing better for than on-the-water testing for service issues and troubleshooting.

For boat manufacturers like Nordic, Havasu holds an appeal that has drawn dozens of companies within the past four decades. Fun on the water is an aspect of Havasu that often inspires such industry.

Another aquatic manufacturer in Havasu is AirChair, which began production of its unique, Havasu-made hydrofoil in 1990. The company maintains five employees, who work with businesses throughout Havasu to produce hundreds, or sometimes thousands of AirChairs per year, according to Production Manager Collin Bangs.

“Over the years, it’s evolved with technology,” Bangs said. “It drives through the water just like an airplane, using the same concept of high pressure and low pressure. For entry-level equipment, it’s about $1,000, and about $5,800-$6,000 for professional-level AirChairs. You wouldn’t think something that expensive would sell the way it has, but we can’t seem to keep these things in stock.”

Anchors are another Havasu-made commodity, with manufacturers including Slide Anchor, on Industrial Boulevard. According to Slide Anchor owner Ryan Dvorak, his company until recently was the world’s only producer of foldable box anchors and shore spikes, designed to be ideal for boats traveling in waters similar to the Colorado River.

“Havasu has been phenomenal for manufacturing,” Dvorak said earlier this year. “It’s the hub of performance boating on the West Coast. Havasu is great for industry, and with its close proximity to Interstate Highways 10 and 40, raw materials are easier to get. Lower property values allow us to have a larger facility than we could have elsewhere. It made the most sense to move our shop here.”

Another of Havasu’s manufacturers has embraced the city’s fishing industry. McCoy Fishing Line, which moved to Havasu nearly 18 years ago. The business distributes its products worldwide, with popular overseas markets in Russia, Australia, South America and South Africa.

The 80-year-old company has been owned by Havasu residents Mike Masterpole and Steve Hartigan since 2007, and they pride themselves on producing a strong, high-quality American-made product. They are also the owners of Havasu SamCorp Arms Manufacturing.

“This is a good place to have a manufacturing business,” Masterpole said in a March interview. “The workforce is reasonable for what we do. I come from California, here manufacturing is highly regulated … any business is highly regulated. With our business in the outdoor sports industry, it seems less regulated in that regard. ”

After 11 years in the manufacturing industry, Masterpole says the going has been smooth. McCoy Fishing Line and SamCorp Arms Manufacturing don’t distribute directly to the general public, Masterpole said. But through the support of local retailers and his company’s support of bass fishing tournaments and local events, Masterpole has seen the companies’ popularity increase in Havasu.

“It’s a small town,” Masterpole said. “If we have a question about something, we can get someone on the other end that can help us. It’s a friendly business atmosphere. I have only positive things to say about it.”

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